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Archive for August, 2009

What’s Wrong With Corporate Culture

Friday, August 28th, 2009

WARNING: This column is tasteless. No one should read it. Period. Except for the marketing executives at Fleet.

The other day EneMan™ came into my life. EneMan is Fleet Enema’s mascot/superhero. My personal EneMan is a soft squishy foam toy. It is quite simply one of the most horrid marketing inventions I’ve come across to date. As my husband so aptly put it “EneMan… it’s just so wrong.” And I have to agree. Charley the Tuna, I understand. Same with Mr. Clean, Count Chocula and the Trix rabbit. But EneMan? What were these guys thinking?

The most frightening thing about EneMan is that so much work went into his creation. EneMan represents countless meetings, drawings, discussions and proposals. There is an EneMan purchase order, an EneMan production company. There was an EneMan photo shoot and vast reams of paper associated with EneMan: invoices, spread sheets and requisition forms. EneMan is in my living room because hundreds of people and hundreds of thousands of dollars made sure he was. (Along with the help of a friend of mine with an absolutely demented sense of humor—thanks Dallas!)

First, some marketing genius at Fleet proposed EneMan at one of their brainstorming sessions. In my mind it went something like this: “Hey, you know, enemas are pretty scary,” the person said. “We need to soften our image. Maybe throw a bit of humor in there. Put a face on our enemas. A friendly face. No maybe a superhero’s face—EneMan! Saving millions from the horrors of constipation!” the marketing person exulted. Some people at the meeting were rightfully appalled with this idea. However, some marketing executive thought it was a great idea. He jumped on it. “Better get that name trademarked before someone else gets it. That’s gonna be a popular name. I mean, with the Internet and all. All we need is some porn site taking our name and ruining our campaign. Or worse, some Saturday morning cartoon on Cartoon Network. EneMan would make a great cartoon hero, wouldn’t he?” “By, God, you’re right!” exclaimed another corporate executive. “Bob, get on that one right away, we don’t want EneMan snatched away from us before we can get this campaign started.” The people at the meeting who hated the idea were afraid of voicing their opinions and losing their jobs so they kept their mouths shut. And so the action item was taken down, it’s order given to some flunky and the first step in EneMan’s journey had begun.

Bringing EneMan to life required an artist. Perhaps one of these enslaved corporate scribblers came up with the concept themselves—quite a payoff for a four years toiling away at art and design school. Somehow I think the artist pictured their future very differently. I don’t think they were at the New York Museum of Art gazing up at the oils thinking to themselves “Someday… I will create EneMan! My career highlight! My life fulfilled!” And I doubt the creation of EneMan will ever make it to the artist’s resume. However, one of these poor slobs was assigned to draw EneMan, make clay models of him and this same artist probably devoted two full years of his or her life to the creation of the enema superhero.

After the drawings and clay models were approved on EneMan, the order went to a production company. Which involved much correspondence, many phone calls, business trips and meetings. Which resulted in some Chinese manufacturers being even more convinced that the Americans had lost their collective minds.

Soon, scores of EneMen rolled off the assembly line, carried along on conveyor belts, like little garish soldiers going off to fight the good war for regularity. From there, the EneMen bravely marched their way to the packing plant, where they were boxed up and shipped to their homeland—the United States of America. Finally, after a long voyage across the open seas, the first leg of the EneMen’s journey came to an end. The EneMen had come home.

After our little squishy heroes arrived, they were unpacked and admired by their creators. “Look at these little babies!” the marketing executive exclaimed. “These have exceeded my wildest expectations! Talk about trade show swag! Boy, are we gonna beat the pants off those Viagra jerks! There’s gonna be a run on these little puppies. Oh, no pun intended. Heh-heh-heh!”

From the marketing department at corporate headquarters, the EneMen were dispatched to trade shows across the nation. And how they were welcomed! They even had a guy inside a giant EneMan costume at the trade shows, passing out lovely little likenesses of himself to eager medical professionals. EneMan ended up in briefcases from California to New York City. What a triumph for the EneMen! Can you imagine how happy the husbands and wives of these professionals were to see EneMen marching into their own homes? Yes. Probably about as happy as getting an enema.

After I began writing this column, I wanted to know how close to the truth I was about EneMan’s creation. So, I looked him up on the web. Here’s the actual, verbatim quote from C.B. Fleet Company’s corporate website about the creation of EneMan. “LOOK! UP IN THE SKY. IT’S A BIRD! IT’S A PLANE! A NEW FORCE FIGHTS TO INCREASE COLORECTAL CANCER SCREENING!” It is beyond me how the people at Fleet thought a caped superhero in the shape of an enema would alert people to the risks of colorectal cancer.

What I think happened is that they created EneMan to sell their product and after EneMan came back to corporate headquarters, someone finally came to their senses and dared to voice their opinion to the marketing boss. “Um, I’m not sure this is the best marketing idea we’ve had. I mean, EneMan is a superhero and an enema. Do you think the consumer will really like the idea of a superhero flying up their butt?” “But we’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on EneMan!” the marketing executive thundered. “What do we do with him now? We can’t just abandon EneMan!” Then another person at the meeting said, “Well, we’ve been tapped to do this awareness program on colorectal cancer.” “Fine! Perfect!” the marketing executive exclaimed. “We’ll say we created EneMan to promote awareness for colorectal cancer! Then the CEO won’t find out we just blew five hundred grand on a turkey marketing idea. You’re a genius! Give that man a promotion!”

I still say it was a stupid idea. I, personally, do not like the idea of a superhero flying up my rear. But maybe that’s just me.

However, I now count EneMan as one of my most precious belongings. Never will I discard EneMan to the cruelty of the dumps or the vast wasteland of thrift stores. No, my EneMan has found a permanent home. EneMan will serve to be my own personal superhero. My constant vindication for choosing a career outside of corporate America.

© 2004, Janet Periat

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